The High Weald Landscape Trail is a 90 mile route that runs from Horsham in West Sussex to Rye in East Sussex. The High Weald is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and according to the High Weald AONB website its key features are “its rolling hills, scattered farmsteads, small woodlands, irregular-shaped fields, open heaths and ancient routeways”.
It has been a long time since I walked a section of the HWLT, it was back at the end of April when my friend Chris and I started on the first section of this route, but finally we were back today to continue the walk.
Bolney is not the easiest of places to get to by public transport, for me it involved a bus ride, a train ride and another rather bumpy bus ride. Today’s walk got off to an inauspicious start at side of the old London to Brighton road, but we soon passed under the current London to Brighton road and into woodland, although we never really did get away from the noise of the traffic.
In a large proportion of today’s walk was in woodland and to be honest it wasn’t particularly inspiring. Perhaps if we had been a week earlier then there would have been more leaves on the trees it would have been more appealing, but as it was the walk soon became a little tedious. There path was varied, sometimes along the side of the wood, sometimes through the middle of a wood, sometimes along a road surrounded by woodland but there were few sections where we were actually out in the open.
Things did improve once we got nearer Cuckfield. The landscape did begin to open up a little bit and we were able to see the South Downs in the distance, admittedly it was only the outline of the South Downs, as it was still a bit hazy in the distance.
Without doubt the best part of walk was the village of Cuckfield itself. Of course I am biased because there are family connections with the parish, and it gives its name to the Civil Registration District in which so many of the births, marriages and deaths in my family tree occurred. I don’t think I have ever spent much time in Cuckfield (and we didn’t really spend that long today), but I have passed through on occasion and I now know that I will undoubtedly have to return in the future.
We found time to visit the church (which was open and had a display of “church treasures”) and the churchyard, then after a quick wander around the streets we popped into Cuckfield Museum. I knew Cuckfield had a museum but hadn’t realised what a treasure trove it was, along with the expected displays on aspects of local history they also have a small resource centre for family and local history. I resisted the urge to take a folder of the shelf and pull up a chair.
I need to get myself better organised for my next visit, well actually not my next visit because that will be to continue the walk but the time after that, so that I can spend some quality time immersed in some family history research.
Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
My original plan for today was to visit the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester, West Sussex but once it became obvious earlier in the week that the weather for today was going to be relatively warm and bright I decided a change of plan was called for. As I had already promised my wife a trip to Chichester I decided to fulfil on of my long-held (well a few years held anyway) ambitions to visit The Trundle.
The Trundle is the name given to the iron-age hill-fort on top of St Roche’s Hill a few miles north of Chichester and just south of the ancestral village of Singleton, the hill-fort itself surrounds a much older neolithic causewayed enclosure and all manner of other ancient and not so ancient sites. As hill-forts go it is quite impressive, with the ditch and bank still being well defined.
There are many approaches to The Trundle, in fact about a quarter of a mile west of the summit of the hill is a spot called Seven Points, where the finger-post below indicates the possible directions (Binderton, Lavant, Goodwood, Trundle, Charlton, Singleton and West Dean). As you can see despite the slightly misty conditions the views were pretty spectacular, and I can’t believe I have never come across any reference to Seven Points before.
My approach to St Roche’s Hill and The Trundle was from West Dean, having got off the bus from Chichester at the Selsey Arms pub in West Dean, I headed south-east across the dried up River Lavant and began the climb up the hill, with the flint boundary wall of West Dean Park on my left as my guide. The path here is actually part of the Monarch’s Way and passes through a couple of stretches of woodland before heading in a more easterly direction to Seven Points. The views on this part of the route were pretty impressive themselves, looking across to the other side of the river valley.
From Seven Points the path heads up the hill to the east, with the radio mast on The Trundle dominating the skyline. I seem to be becoming more tolerant of these artificial intrusions in the landscape, especially when they act as beacons and navigational aids to the walker. There is plenty to see on The Trundle itself, many lumps and bumps, quite apart from the main ditch and bank, however the views from the hilltop were quite breathtaking.
A full 360° panorama and even with the mist it was still possible to see for miles, the spire of Chichester Cathedral was clearly visible and Chichester Harbour, further west I could just about make out Portsmouth and to the south-west the bulky outline of the Isle of Wight. I found myself wishing for a clearer day, but knew that I would be returning again one day, hopefully in better conditions to take in more of this spectacular landscape, which unfortunately my digital camera did not do justice to.
Much closer to the hill, in fact butting up against the hill to east is Goodwood Race Course, another man-made structure which didn’t seem to intrude quite as much as I had expected, although that may not be the case on an actual race day.
To the north the views were not quite as far ranging due to the presence of the South Downs, but still pretty spectacular, especially being able to look down (see below) on the ancestral village of Singleton from such a fantastic vantage point. Singleton was the end point of the walk today and it was pretty much all downhill from The Trundle, heading in a northerly direction, first along the road to Charlton and then branching off to the left on a footpath down the spur of Knight’s Hill. The path leading me down, quite steeply near the end, to the parish church at Singleton with so many family connections.
The walk didn’t take long, around two hours and was probably somewhere between 3½ and 4 miles in length and thus not particularly challenging, but I would have to say that it was probably my favourite walk of the year. I have walked in some of the most beautiful parts of Sussex this year whilst doing the South Downs Way but I don’t think anything came close to today. Perhaps it was the fact that it was new to me, perhaps the beautiful weather for this time of year, perhaps the ancestral connections or maybe just that I needed to get out and let my mind wander as well as my legs. I think I made the correct decision not to go to the record office after all.
After a break of almost a month my wife and I were back walking the South Downs Way last Saturday. This was the last section taking us from the tiny village of Exton to the city of Winchester, both in Hampshire and although the distance was only twelve miles they did seem a world apart.
The highlight of Exton for me (apart from it being an ancestral village) was the River Meon (see below), a beautifully clear chalk stream and I could have stood for hours watching the trout feeding in the shallow waters. Winchester has its own river (the Itchen) which is quite pretty in its own right, but Winchester also has a motorway, crowds, shops, cafes, noise and everything we had been blissfully free of on our walk over the Downs.
The weather wasn’t perfect, visibility was pretty poor on our journey down and we wondered whether we would actually be able to see anything once we reached Exton. Fortunately the sun did come out as the weather forecasters predicted and started to burn of some of the mist and fog. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before the sky clouded over and we were left with slightly better visibility but by no means perfect.
The sun did reappear after lunch, but it was a little too late in the afternoon. I had hoped for a clear view of Winchester as we descended from the hills, but instead we were greeted by a rather dull and grey jumble of buildings, rather disappointing in the end.
We passed through many places with ancestral connections during the day, both whilst walking and whilst getting to the start. It is a beautiful part of the country and one which I have ever intention of visiting again and exploring further. Public transport is not brilliant among the small villages and hamlets, so some careful planning is need.
So that is it, the walk is over, we reached our destination but it did take an incredibly long time. It was actually only ten days, which works out at ten miles a day, but we didn’t have the luxury of lots of free time to complete it, so it was stretched out over many more months than we would have liked. Next year I will try to do it all in one go.
So here is the final set of facts and figures for the walk:
My wife and I were out and about again today, walking another section of the South Downs Way. The weather was reasonably good, slightly cooler than previous walks and mostly dry. The photo below shows the first climb of the day, as you can see there was lots of broken cloud, but around midday the cloud became thicker eventually leading to some light rain and ultimately one heavy, but very brief shower.
There had obviously been some very heavy rain recently because there were some very large (almost unpassable) puddles and many patches of mud, which made some of the paths a little awkward.
I like this particular section, partly because of the almost continuous views of the village of East Meon and that it finished in Exton, both of which have family connections, partly because there are some superb views to the south to Southampton and the Isle of Wight and partly because it is a section I am not that familiar with (unlike some of the Sussex sections).
The biggest surprise of the day was the state of HMS Mercury, last year when I walked this section the site contained many derlict buildings that made up this naval establishment. Today although the security fences were still there but the buildings had gone, or rather they had been reduced to big piles of ground-up rubble. I don’t think there was anything architecturally outstanding about the buildings but it was still sad to see them gone.
As with previous walks here are some facts and figures for today’s walk:
My wife and I completed another section of the South Downs Way on Saturday, after a few weeks break we finally made it back down to Cocking, near Midhurst in West Sussex to carry on heading west towards Winchester. The weather wasn’t particularly brilliant, for about the middle third of the walk we were accompanied by light rain, not enough to make us wish we had waterproofs, but just enough to be annoying.
The temperature was still pretty warm even though we only saw the sun for a couple of brief moments, there was a slight breeze, but not enough to make it cold. We should have had some spectacular views to the south across to Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, but the conditions meant that although you could see some vague outlines it was far from clear.
The second half of this walk was one of my least favourite parts last time, not particularly difficult just uninspiring. The only real notable feature of this section was the crossing of the border from West Sussex into Hampshire, but even this is easily missed because it is not marked in any way except on the map.
Queen Elizabeth Country Park at the end of the walk was a welcome sight bring with it toilets, refreshments and most importantly a bus stop from which we could start our journey home (the sound of the traffic racing past on the busy main road wasn’t quite so welcome).
Like the last time I wrote about our walk along the South Downs Way I am going to give you some facts and figures for Saturday’s walk:
I should have been doing some family history last night, but I got side-tracked into fiddling about with the “new” Ordnance Survey getamap website. It is not really that new and is an updated version of the old website where you can view portions of Ordnance Survey mapping.
I have been struggling to get the website to print any more than a few pixels of any map, but I think I have a work-around for that now. I was then trying to work out whether it was worth subscribing to the website (£30 per year at the moment) to get extra features, but I was then distracted into looking at the county boundary that I cross every day to and from work.
I was playing with the route creating facility, it is really quite good as not only will it show you the distance but also the elevation and tell you how long it ought to take to walk (and run or cycle) the distance, practising using the route that I sometimes walk between Horley to Gatwick Airport.
With Henry GASSON in the back of my mind I started to study the route of the Sussex/Surrey border. I am pretty certain that the border has been moved since Henry’s time, and I am positive that Henry wouldn’t have recognised the land surrounding the boundary. I am not convinced that he would have realised that there was a boundary there in the first place, let alone placed any significance on the fact that he was moving his family from one side to the other.
For my own part though the boundary seemingly holds a significance which I can’t really explain. Measuring the distance from my place of work to the boundary I worked out I could make my way back over into my native Sussex in just under 15 minutes. The closest point is just under two-thirds of a mile away, admittedly it is not a particularly appealing part of Sussex, being on the outskirts of Gatwick Airport, but it is Sussex nevertheless.